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GeoMarketing 101: What Is Ad Retargeting?

Ad retargeting tactic has been a hallmark of digital advertising for a while. But it’s recently made a move to the real world.

From geo-targeting to beacons, location-based technology is opening up a world of possibilities for marketers — but it’s also complicated, as new capabilities and use cases seem to emerge every day.

With the goal of breaking down some of the most important “geo” concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far the power of location may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: What is retargeting?

What Is Ad Retargeting?

Put simply, ad retargeting is the practice of showing ads to consumers based on their previous actions.

Here’s a basic example: A woman browses for a leather tote bag online, and maybe even checks out a particular style that she likes, but doesn’t purchase the item. The brand that makes the tote has a vested interest in following up with this shopper — she looked at a specific item that she likely has some intention of buying — and thus serves her an ad for the product later on desktop or her mobile device.

Essentially, ad retargeting serves to help marketers deliver ads to someone who has demonstrated a relevant interest in the advertised item in the past, which makes them more likely to convert to a sale.

In the earlier days of digital advertising, ad retargeting was known only for the specific cookie-based use case above: targeting a consumer based on his or her internet history.

But now, with the advent of beacons and a more advanced understanding of historical geo-data, it is possible to retarget shoppers with advertising based on their physical actions in the real world.

Retargeting IRL

With retargeting based on offline actions, a retailer that knows a consumer shopped in one of its stores recently could deliver a message or deal to that interested person as a “nudge” to buy something — and with beacons, this largely works by retargeting consumers on their smartphones after they have already opted in to receive communication from the retailer.

This idea of ad retargeting shoppers based on real-world behaviors was the impetus for a partnership between Opera Mediaworks and Unacast, announced this March.

As a mobile ad marketplace, Opera brings large publishers and brand advertisers together in general. By working with Unacast, which aggregates offline shopping behavioral analytics based in part on consumers’ interactions with beacons and its Proxbook network, Opera can offer its clients a view into consumers’ “real-world identity.”

As GeoMarketing’s David Kaplan wrote at the time, “the idea of beacons as a platform for sending discounts to branded apps is also starting to fade when it comes to the main purpose for installing the Bluetooth-powered devices. The next phase of beacons’ role in the marketing spectrum is as a key touchpoint for retargeting shoppers who have opted in to receive those messages from a store’s branded app.”

Because of its ability to deliver relevant content to already-interested consumers, retargeting likely has an enduring future. But the next year will be instrumental in determining how impactful beacon-based retargeting can be.